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The Cult, Primal Scream at Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Thursday 26th, November 2015 / 16:38
By Joshua Erickson
Primal Scream at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Primal Scream at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Photo: Sarah Whitlam

November 15, 2015

VANCOUVER — It was a bill that looked strange on paper, putting experimental psych-rock group Primal Scream and goth-rock/classic rock radio band The Cult on the same bill together. In practice it was just as weird, if not weirder, than imagined. Heading into the venue the crowd’s age skewed older, but there were still quite a few younger attendees. Although both bands were active around the same time, I had a feeling most of the younger faces in the crowd were there to see Primal Scream—and in a short time I was proved to be right.

As the house lights dimmed at exactly 7:30 (the advertised start time—no punk time at the Queen E!), Bobby Gillespie and Primal Scream took to the stage. Some audience members didn’t bother to look up from their phone, while others cheered wildly. Wearing a silk black shirt, tight black dress pants, and a golden metallic suit jacket, Gillespie wasted no time and established himself as the rock star he is. Throughout the set he strutted around the stage confidently, danced wildly, and encouraged mass audience participation. The band powered through a career spanning set which smartly—based on their audience—focused more around their garage-y rock ‘n’ roll sounding songs, as opposed to their experimental dance-infused music.

The show-stopper came halfway through the set, when the band played a cut from the album XTRMNTR: “Swastika Eyes.” As the first blast into the loud and cacophonous chorus hit, there was a massive spike of the energy in the room. Gillespie, taking advantage of this, got the entire audience to their feet and suddenly the whole room became electric. A giant, manic smile crossed his face as he fell to his knees and threw his hands in the air and the band continued to jam. Through Gillespie’s magnetic performance, the crowd stood up for the rest of the set and Primal Scream proved they are legends in their own right and they truly have no modern equivalent.

The Cult were, to put it bluntly, less impressive. While sounding tight, The Cult’s live performance lacked the sense of adventure and experimentation found within Primal Scream’s set. Most disappointing though, was frontman Ian Astbury and his lame gimmicks and banter. Several times he told the audience they were putting him to sleep, he also made a couple of strange and inappropriate comments about the terror attacks in Paris; one of them was about how he isn’t Bono and that The Cult weren’t going to make the Paris attacks all about them, unlike U2. It should be noted, Astbury was wearing very Bono-like sunglasses and didn’t take them off once the whole set. All in all, it felt like a very by the numbers set with some uncomfortable banter in between songs.

Though the two bands formed and played around the same time, Primal Scream’s music has a timeless quality to it and an excellent live performance to boot. The same can’t be said about The Cult.

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